Today is national Coming Out Day

Christina Stavale

Sarah Metzger, freshman fashion design major, and her girlfriend, Sara Payne, a third year criminal justice major at Stark State, spend time together whenever they can. Metzger said she thinks Coming Out Week is a positive program for students at Kent. DA

Credit: DKS Editors

Until recently, freshman fashion design major Sarah Metzger did not know Coming Out Week existed. But this week, she’s been participating in the activities, and since she’s been at Kent State, she’s enjoyed being able to show who she really is.

“I was so excited to come to Kent,” she said. “I could just come here and be me. I didn’t have to pretend to be anyone else.”

Today, Metzger and many others across the country are celebrating National Coming Out Day. The nationwide recognition is sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, and today also marks the 20th anniversary of the Gay and Lesbian March on Washington.

PRIDE!Kent President Colleen Eltibi said celebrating this day helps people who normally may feel uncomfortable about coming out feel like it’s OK.

“I’ve known people who have come out on Coming Out Day and Coming Out Week,” she said.

When Metzger came out toward the end of her high school years, she had the support system of her best friend and aunt who are also gay.

But she was rushed into coming out a little sooner than she planned. Still, Metzger said in some ways, she was happy it happened the way it did.

“I’m almost happy that I could just be me, and I didn’t have to hide myself,” she said.

Metzger said her biggest struggle when coming out was fear of losing people who had always been there for her.

“You take things for granted,” she said. “Your best friend is always on your side, your mom is always on your side – well, what if you come out?”

When she did tell her mom about her sexual orientation, she said her mom cried and told her she ruined her life. But shortly after, her mom told her she would always love her no matter what.

“She was my best friend, and to hear her say that I ruined her life tore me apart,” she said.

Since coming to Kent State, she said she’s found that the community is mostly supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Still, she said there is an element of fear because the environment is much bigger than she is used to.

“I knew in my little town that no one would hurt me about (being gay),” she said.

She said she thinks some of her ease with the community comes with being a girl and “not looking gay.”

Andrew, a student who did not wish to have his last name printed for personal safety reasons, said the hardest part of coming out was coming to terms with himself.

Andrew said he was 18 when he realized he was bisexual, after he fell in love with a man from his old school.

“I was kind of nervous and I kept it from my parents as long as I could,” he said.

While he was keeping his sexual orientation a secret, Andrew said he had thoughts of suicide, in fear of his parents finding out.

Although his parents now know, he said it is not something they talk about often. And while his good friends from high school are accepting of who he is, he said they still hope he will someday end up with a woman.

He said having support systems such as PRIDE!Kent and Coming Out Week help him have more self esteem if someone calls him a derogatory term.

“I feel that it’s not as harmful because I have that support,” he said.

When PRIDE!Kent vice president Leora Rzepka was growing up, she said her family was big on acceptance and equality. Entering high school, she had only a few friends, so she decided to attend the LGBT group at her high school’s meeting, even though she was straight.

“I was head-on into the LGBT rights and awareness,” she said.

She met her best friends in that group and has continued her support as an LGBT ally. Rzepka said she felt fully accepted by LGBT students, and has never once felt different or out of place.

PRIDE!Kent President Colleen Eltibi said when she came out at age 16, she paved the way for other students at her high school who had been waiting to do the same.

“I was a well-liked kid, so I had zero struggle with it,” she said. “I’ve always been OK with who I am.”

She encouraged anyone who may be waiting to come out to do so.

“I say it’s a good idea,” she said. “Coming out can be a difficult process for some, but it’s easier than people think. Plus, being out, you can be a part of PRIDE.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Christina Stavale at [email protected].